By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Tom Sellar
By Tom Sellar
By Jessica Dawson
By Tom Sellar
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
Herzog: So tough, Soloski.
Hwang: For best, I’m going to say Yellow Face simply because Yellow Face is the rare example of a show that I’ve worked on where the New York experience was more pleasant than the out-of-town experience. Not that the out-of-town experience was bad, even. But usually it’s harder in New York, people don’t get along, there’s more tension, but the play got better. In terms of a bad experience, I guess Face Value would be a good example of that, because it is traumatic to have a play close in previews, on Broadway. First of all we got really bad reviews out of town, the one I remember had a headline that said “M. Turkey.” Then we came into New York in a blizzard. I remember I was in a car one day with the director and the producer and some kids started throwing snowballs at the car, and I thought, this is just perfect. But mostly what was bad was I felt like I lost the play along the way and I didn’t know how to fix it.
Soloski: Would you ever go back to it or is Yellow Face—
Hwang: Yellow Face is my way of dealing with Face Value.
Herzog: I’m so new to this world and I’ve been very lucky. But all three plays that I’ve had produced, I’ve been so abjectly miserable during previews. I remember sitting in a preview audience of 4000 Miles in Lincoln Center. And the man in front of me said, “That felt like 4000 hours!” That was pretty good. If you’re going to be mean about my play, that was well said. I do feel like there’s something that happens during previews where you feel completely lost, you feel the play is a failure. I do that every single time.
Bradshaw: Burning was the most artistically fulfilling for me. Most of my plays have been an hour, an hour and a half long, and to create this big thing opened up something. My latest play is 160 pages, it’s like let’s try this long-form stuff some more. But some of the responses to my plays have been out of control, especially some of the early work, which I wasn’t prepared for. I wasn’t prepared for how angry people were and how they lashed out at me.
Herzog: Has it become a point of pride?
Bradshaw: No, what’s to be prideful or proud of about people being angry at me? I don’t want people to be angry at me. I just want to write these plays and have people say, you’re a genius. The way some people wrote about Purity, past anger, past talking about the work and wanting to assassinate me, just attacking Tom Bradshaw. I remember reading those reviews. I was really unsettled. I thought my career was over.
Hwang: I think of you as having such a thick skin.
Herzog: I assumed that, too.
Bradshaw: Well, I got one.
Herzog: Do you read your reviews?
Bradshaw: I read all the reviews. I have an extremely thick skin now. Purity was six years ago. But that experience taught me a lot. I learned a lot about that craft. It’s like there would be a way to write that play that would ease the audience in. With Purity it was almost like a baseball bat. Welcome. Bam!
Soloski: Well, you do begin it with child rape. Now, playwriting is an extraordinary career, but also a difficult one. What’s the hardest aspect of craft for you and what’s the thing that makes you keep doing it?
Hwang: My favorite part of the whole process is when I’m writing and I have an impulse to do something I don’t understand and I end up discovering something about a character that I had no idea about. That just feels so magical.
Bradshaw: Suddenly your characters are doing things themselves.
Hwang: You’re taking dictation.
Herzog: I agree, and I also love a moment that’s maybe the opposite. We eventually hand off the writing to a group of people who surprise us. It’s exciting to me to be truly surprised by something in my play based on someone else’s gift.
Soloski: And as to the worst aspect, for you, it’s previews.
Herzog: They’re agony. I could blame it on a lot of things. That’s the time when everyone agrees we’re still working on this, we don’t know what it is yet. It should be really wonderful, probably if you’re a really good Buddhist, but it’s agony.
Hwang: I think opening nights are horrible.
Hwang: Especially New York. You should be celebrating that you made something and instead it’s about 10:00 p.m, online—